Tour of the Abberleys

by John Bamford

TOUR OF THE ABBERLEYS 2019

To anyone not familiar with the racing scene in the UK may be forgiven for thinking that a race organised by the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists would involve a group of old codgers riding vintage bikes whilst reminiscing about a bygone era of various sporting achievements.

How far from the truth could that be!  The Tour of the Abberleys is always well represented and has now become a prestigious event on the LVRC calendar, ran over the first bank holiday weekend in May, and renowned for its aggressive racing on challenging hilly circuits in the lovely Worcestershire countryside.

Just looking around the car park on Day 1 re-enforces the likely quality of the racing to come, the amount of carbon fibre, lightweight wheels, power meters and other expensive kit, if totted up and pooled together would generate enough cash to purchase a number of high end Italian sports cars!

Yes, my fellow riders aren’t here for a jolly, even though the camaraderie and banter in the HQ each day is as good as it gets, everyone here means business and everyone knows the racing will be of a really high quality!

We have always had a strong team of riders for this event, having won the overall for the past 3 years courtesy of Stephen Feeney and Craig Battersby.  However, our team would be a bit depleted for the 2019 edition with Stephen, the previous year’s winner, unable to defend his trophy and Craig, winner in 2016 and 2017, side-lined due to a broken arm sustained in a training ride crash in the last few miles of our annual Majorca training camp.  We were all gutted for Craig as the Tour of the Abberleys is suited to him and he was in top form leading up to the event.  Heal fast Craig!

So that left, myself and Tony Greenhalgh to fly the flag for Team Chronomaster in this year’s event.  Tony is a previous stage winner, with his most recent win on the final stage of last year where he had gone up the road with several other riders, virtually from the end of the neutralised section, and managed to hang on for the win over the tough final climbs of the finishing circuit, despite the climbers of the race being on a mission to hunt him down before the line.

I had a quiet race last year, but was looking to build upon the top 10 overall finish I’d had the year before.  I felt I had reasonable form so it was all to play for.  Darran Acton of Tactic Sport, our friend, training partner and kit sponsor, was also joining us for the weekend.

STAGE 1 – Prologue

The first stage was a 3 mile prologue starting at the layby just across from the HQ.  This year there would be a tailwind so the times were likely to be quick.  The course had reverted back to the one used a few years ago, having experimented with a longer TT last year.  It was uphill for the first 1km then basically downhill or flat with one or two small rises, which wouldn’t pose too much problem to most when gliding along at TT pace.

At 55kg wet through prologues are never going to be my forte, and certainly not ones that favour the strong men who can churn large gears on the flat and downhill sections.   So I wasn’t going to get overly concerned about the result, I’d just try to push hard and see where that got me.  In the end I think I pushed too hard up the climb at the start, hung on for the middle section but died a thousand deaths in the last half mile.  I crossed the line in 7:15, with Tony recording a time of 6:46 good enough for 10th place, but disappointing given his ambitions of a podium position in the overall.  Shaun Tyson of Team Ribble won the stage and would wear the yellow jersey.

Despite the disappointing start we both agreed that there was plenty of racing to come over the bank holiday weekend and everything was still to play for…. Roll on stage 2.

The full result from the opening time trial is below:

STAGE 2 – Astley Circuit

This stage consisted of a 14 mile circuit raced over 3 laps, just a couple of hours after the prologue had finished.  The sun was still shining although a few grey clouds were gathering above us.

The race rolled left out of the headquarters with a neutralised section of about half a mile.  I positioned myself in the first half a dozen riders and waited for the inevitable grunt of the engine as the lead car sped off into the distance to signal the race was on proper.

It was at this point Darran and five others managed to quickly breakaway from the bunch and gain a lead of about 30 seconds.  In true ToA tradition there were plenty of attacks and attempts to break clear of the bunch, over the next two laps, none of which came to anything.  I’d followed some of the moves but was keen not help too much in the chase as Daz was up the road.

On the bell lap, the leading riders had been reeled back in and it was all to play for again.  On one of the longer drags on the back end of the circuit 3 riders broke clear, Dave Griffiths, Thomas McCormack and Nigel Modlinsky and these riders eventually contested the win, with Dave Griffiths, managing to get the better of the two Element CT riders.

Both Tony and I made sure we were near the front of the bunch going into the final couple of miles, with an uphill drag on the A451 stringing things out nicely.  As we approached the left hand turn into the finishing straight, Tony was 2nd wheel and I was a wheel or two behind him.  With a few hundred metres to go, Tony kicked and I tried to follow.  Tony won the bunch gallop for 4th place and I managed to grab 6th place…. Not bad for a lad with a worse sprint than Craig Battersby!

Photo courtesy of Vince Page.

 

Here is the general classification after day 1 and the stage 2 result:

STAGE 3 – Hill Side Circuit

Today’s stage was the longest of the race at 56 miles, An 11 mile lap raced over 5 laps.  A lumpy route with a climb of just under a mile to the finish line. The winner of the stage would also receive the Ramon Minovi Memorial race trophy.

Tony had managed to maintain his top ten overall placing, however I had some catching up to do given my average prologue performance from the previous day.

The attacks began once again, as soon as the lead car had headed into the distance. I tried to get in a couple of moves but it seemed half the bunch had the same idea. Eventually, 3 riders managed to forge a break and disappear up the road; Steve Lee, Jez Honor and Steve Dring.  A fourth rider, Nigel Modlinsky managed to bridge across and the quartet managed to hold a slender gap (20 – 40 secs) for the remaining laps.

The race followed a similar pattern on laps 2 and 3 where the finishing climb wasn’t ridden at full gas but then attacks would go over the top and in the twisty back lanes before re-joining the A443 on the main road back to Gt Witley.  Amongst the many attacks, both Tony and I attempted to steal a march on the bunch, but it seemed all moves where now chased down.

The penultimate time up the finishing climb was ridden hard with Tony pressing on, gaps started to appear as the bunch was singled out.  The bunch eventually regrouped with half a lap to go and Tony and I had a quick word with each other about how things would play out.  Tony’s advice… “stay on my wheel Bambam”.  That was good enough for me! :O)

As we hit the finishing climb Shaun Tyson, who was sitting 4th overall, pressed on.  I held his wheel whilst Tony tucked in behind me.  As we hit the plateau that breaks the finishing climb into two, Tony shouted that we’d got a gap.  I eventually flicked my elbow for Tony to come through, conscious that I didn’t want the gap we’d forced to disappear.  Both Tony and Shaun seemed to kick again, and as we hit the final incline to the finish my legs went, full of lactate due to the effort, and I ended up rolling over the line in 19th place.  Tony crossed the line in 8th moving himself to 7th on the overall standings.

 

Here is the stage result and general classification after stage 3:

Steve Lee, from the original break crossed the line first to win the Ramon Minovi Memorial race trophy, whilst Jez Honor mopped up the most points from the breakaway to wear the KOM jersey for the final day of racing.

STAGE 4 – Worcester circuit (1 lap); Shelsley Walsh circuit (2 laps)

The final stage of the race is the shortest, but arguably the toughest with 2 difficult climbs each lap of the final finishing circuit.

Tony was sitting in 7th position overall, 1:48 off the yellow jersey, whilst I was sat in 25th spot 2 mins 32 down.  Given the severity of the climbs and tired legs from the previous days racing, anything was possible (Liverpool and Spurs fans would vouch to that!!).

Both Darran, Tony and I had discussed tactics and it was evident that the best way of making up time was to try and get in an early break and give ourselves time to build up a lead, in the hope that the top 3 or 4 guys on GC would be marking each other, essentially, in a carbon copy of last year’s final stage.

Attacks were frantic and often in the first few miles as we approached Martley and the left turn along the B4204 towards Worcester.  Attacks continued with Darran pretty much either creating or chasing every move, I attacked several times too, but with no rhyme or reason to it, all were closed down, then one or two riders would be given some rope and get up the road.  A group of six riders eventually formed a lead group including Peter Bracken and Paul Dring.  With Liverpool Braveheart having four riders in the race and Steve willing to carry out defensive duties for his brother, any further attacks were quickly nullified.

As we hit half distance of the 20 mile lap the lead group had gained 30-40 seconds.  I attacked again, and thankfully got a gap quickly.  I looked behind and could see a lone figure coming across, after another glance behind I could see it was Daz so I eased up slightly and as he passed me I jumped on his wheel.

We worked well together for the next few miles, eventually mopping up Richard Unwin who’d not quite managed to bridge across to the breakaway.  The bunch were nowhere in sight and so we pressed on over the rolling terrain heading back towards Gt Witley and the finishing circuit.  We could see the lead car not too far in the distance so probably had 20 seconds to make up.

The effort was heavy going into a headwind, but we all pressed on in the hope we could make inroads into the leaders.  As we approached the HQ and so the end of the Worcester circuit, a quick glance back confirmed our worst fears, the bunch was strung out and fast approaching.

Our bridging attempt was over, and when we hit the first of the two major climbs on the finishing circuit, the GC contenders pressed on, and with lactate filled legs, both Darran and I went backwards.  I managed to get over the top, glued to the wheel of Tommy Mac, who although he was sat in 3rd place overall had done a terrific job of keeping the pace high in the bunch for Nigel who was in yellow.

The leaders were reeled in at this point, and so the game was on for the GC lads, with Tony right up there in the mix.  I found myself in the second group on the road, a bunch of 7 or 8 riders.  We completed the first lap together and then mopped up another few riders who had dropped from the front bunch so our group swelled to a dozen or so with 7 miles and 2 climbs to go.

Over the punishing circuit Shaun Tyson and Dave Griffiths broke clear, clearly the strongest climbers on the day, and Dave managed to shake Shaun off to take the win by 16 seconds.  Tony who’d found himself in no man’s land between the two race leaders and the ‘best of the rest’ knocked off his effort and decided to save himself for the sprint.

A testing finale, with a 400m drag to the line, Tony managed to kick clear taking a well deserved third place, and moving himself up to 5th overall.  With heavy legs from the earlier breakaway effort I rolled in in 24th place, a disappointing result but that’s racing.

Here is the final stage result and overall classification:

Dave Griffiths managed to take the win, and wrestle the yellow jersey away from Nigel who rolled in in 14th place on the day’s stage, managing to finish 3rd overall, oh and he won the KOM jersey too.    Shaun Tyson, who’d raced strong throughout the weekend, finished second on the day and second overall.  Well done to all the stage and overall winners in both the AB and CDEF races.

I will end by saying a huge thank you to the organiser Mike Amery and his army of helpers who put on a superb event!  That army grows larger each year, (I’m sure Mike mention upwards of 75+ helpers) so thank you to each and everyone one of them, as without them, fantastic races like this wouldn’t get off the ground.

I’m certain Team Chronomaster will be back for the 2020 edition with Craig ready to try and make it a hat-trick of overall wins.

 

 

 

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Phil Ward Memorial

by Jimmy Smith

The Phil Ward Memorial is one of the grippiest courses in the local area, with hardly a metre of flat roads, and lots of narrow lanes thrown in too.
I always seem to go well on courses like this, but with it being a 2/3/4, recent weeks have taught me i seem to be marked man in regional races. Nevertheless, myself, Ste, Matt and Kris lined up for the 70 mile race, with the hopes of a decent result in a strong field.

The race started really strangely, with no real neutralised section, one rider attacked the first climb and sat on the back of the lead car, a few others bridged across, and that was the initial break gone (can only assume the lead car was oblivious)
The racing after that took its usual negative pattern, attack, chase, sit up with no ideas.

I had tried to switch my tactics up from recent weeks, as being followed every time you put a dig in can get frustrating! So i decided to save a bit in the first part of the race in the hopes of getting away later on. The fast pace meant we had all but caught the lead group of 4 around half way through, they were literally dangling a few seconds ahead of the bunch when 5 riders rolled across and gave them extra momentum. I noticed the danger and tried to bridge, putting in a dig on a climb, only for the bunch to be lined out behind me. After that, the elastic snapped and the lead grew, with no real chase being organised.

Coming into the penultimate lap, myself and Ste tried a few digs to form a selection but again, the negativity won out. Coming into the bell, I felt frustrated as I knew I was on a good day but would only be racing for a minor place.

Nevertheless, a quick chat with Ste and we both hit the final climb in really good position. He lined it out from a km to go, with the road gently rising up towards the line, looking backwards I knew everyone was suffering. I was still feeling strong so as he finished his effort I hooked onto the first wheel to come by and started the sprint. With 200 to go I was still on the front, and managed to just about hold off the field for 9th.

Although a good result in a hard race, I knew the legs were there for more, not many days you feel that good so its a shame not to capitalise, but I guess that is racing!

A massive thank you as always to all of our sponsors, and the organisers for a top race. Also special mention to Ste for his top leadout!

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LVRC National Time Trial Championship

by Ste Feeney

On Sunday I took part in the annual LVRC time trial championships, which have been held in Warwickshire for many years now. This was my second participation. The first one being last year although my reasons for entering that one differed slightly from this year.  Last year I bought a new Time trial bike to use mainly in a few early team time trials. However, as the ‘Beast from the East’ forced their cancellation, I thought I’d better do a time trial and test the new steed.

The LVRC time trial seemed like a perfect opportunity. I hadn’t really done a decent time trial for a few years but, despite being well beaten for the win that year, I was really pleased to be amongst some really good riders and ‘testers’ which gave me some renewed enthusiasms for solo events. I did a few more time trials that year and had a few decent results so when I entered this year I hoped to improve on my 4th place from the year before. Despite a quiet start to the year, I knew I was in pretty good shape after our annual trip to Majorca, so was going to give it my all!

Unfortunately for team mate Craig, a heavy fall and broken arm suffered during the final few miles of the Majorca trip ruled him out of this year’s race so I was the team’s sole representative on the day.

The race distance had increased from the previous year, up from 13 to 17.5 miles. After studying the new route I realised that this essentially removed a particularly steep, unpleasant climb after around 4 miles (a climb that resulted in our Tony Greenhalgh renaming the event the National hill climb TT champs!). Therefore, I believed the route would be a rolling one with no nasty surprises.

In the days leading to the event I had decided that I was going to use my 50mm front wheel as I expected some blustery winds and also to keep my bike weight down for the hilly route. This meant altering the brakes. As I removed the brake cover to access the front brake I noticed how dirty it was inside and decided to clean it. Unfortunately (and this won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with my mechanical skills), my heavy handedness, a source of many broken bolts and sheared threads over the years, meant I cracked the fairing right down the middle! However, I convinced myself that the tidy repair job executed (specifically, the generous helpings of shiny, smooth insulation tape) had actually reduced the front end drag of my bike.

As I prepared for the start I knew I’d have to pace myself well. Last year I’d crawled along on the final couple of miles and finishing steep climb after pushing too hard early on. As I set off I settled quickly into a nice rhythm and my leg sensations indicated I might be on a ‘good day’ so I was careful not to get carried away. The cross winds at the start were noticeable and I was glad to have opted for ‘only ‘ a 50mm front wheel. The use of my beloved Campagnolo rear disc wheel was never in doubt.  After an early glance down at my computer to check progress I realised I hadn’t reset it after my warm up so a quick reset and I was on my way! I don’t use a power meter or heart rate monitor so I had to have some reference, even if that was only speed and distance covered.

After a 2.4 mile crosswind stretch, the course veered left, up a bit of a drag to what I termed the top of the course. This turned out to be a lovely stretch of straight, virtually flat, traffic free, open road (save for just one short, steep, climb) that took us to a left hand turn just before the halfway point.  Here I realised that, although I had correctly identified the exclusion of the nasty, steep climb from last year, I had failed to assess that a different longer and steeper climb had replaced it!  As my speed was almost instantly wiped away by the gradient, I engaged a gear pretty close to, if not actually, my bottom gear and pushed on to the top trying not to press too hard so I wouldn’t be able to get going again. Once over the top I quickly got back into my rhythm, making decent progress through some winding lanes and rolling climbs. The miles seemed to pass quickly as I headed to the finish, maintaining a good pace all the way and not feeling like I was fading as I had the previous year. Onto the last climb and, unlike last year, I sprinted up it full bore to the finish line.

I was so pleased with my finishing sprint that I wondered whether I had pressed hard enough in the race. As the results came in I realised I had taken the win by just 3 seconds and had no doubt that my  hill climb esque sprint finish probably clinched the win.

I was joint fastest on the day as well as winning my age category.

Top 3: Me 41:45 David Kiernan- (Race Rapid) 41:48 Tim Smith – (Welland Valley CC) 42:12

I was naturally delighted to win my first national title and even more pleased after analysing the results afterwards and realising that the 2nd place rider had actually put 41 seconds into me last year in this event over the shorter distance!

I am a great believer in a pint of Guinness the night before a race but realised I’d actually benefited from an accumulation of Guinness consumption over a few days before the race. Therefore, I shall be conducting further experimentation in order to establish the optimum  Guinness consumption rate and period in the build up to events!

I’d like to thank the organisers, Team Jewson/ M.I.Racing, who have put on this great event for many years and to all the helpers and Marshalls that contributed to such a well run event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SB Hub Development Race #2

It’s been quite a while since I pinned a race number on amidst scenery as charming as the Forest of Bowland. So far, this season’s racing has mostly consisted of racing at the crit track at Salt Ayre. The Time Trial near Ilkley was a great setting but rolling in to the village of Bolton by Bowland, crossing the River Ribble on stone bridges characteristic of rural Lancashire was a great start to the day.

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Also on the start sheet were Jimmy, Tom Bracegirdle and Tom Hanlon. Jimmy had come into this on the back some good results in E12 races and both Toms are suited to racing on rolling courses like this one. However, it seemed that due to living in the independent state of Cheshire that has it’s own time zone, Tom B only arrived as the race was rolling out.

That meant that there was only three of us in the race. Although there nearly wasn’t… a slight mechanical issue saw the rest of the race setting off without me. The thought of not actually racing despite being in full kit on the start line gave me enough of a kick to catch up with the race. After a 5 min chase, I was back on.

The first 5km saw us climb gradually on a narrow, single track road towards the top of the course. We had been informed that the road surface was good with some areas that had been marked up. Nevertheless, when there’s a peloton of 60 in front of you, spotting white paint on the road isn’t easy. Tom was also keen to test everyone’s legs and hit out early on. There was no immediate response and Tom opened up a gap. Surely someone would join him and disappear up the road. We continued and Tom remained out front. A couple of kilometres passed. Still nobody moved. Then a frustrated Tom returned to the peloton to bide his time for an attack later on.

As we hit the first descent, the sound of potholes crunching through rims and the ensuing hiss of pinch flats could be heard and I made a mental note of where not to be next time round.

A 90º left turn on to an exposed road, had the effect of string the peloton out into single file making moving up very difficult.

Jimmy looked good and had been hovering around the front of the bunch. The response to his first attack showed that he was a marked man. The most fun part of the descent was a steep drop down to a bridge with a chicane and then a sharp rise from the other side of the bridge that was a perfect place for a full on sprint to string everyone out again.

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Jimmy was active throughout the race

As we returned to Bolton by Bowland and flew through the village to start climbing again. Jimmy had put in another attack. Another good move and he wasn’t alone. However, it had been noticed and the bunch flew up the steepest part of the climb with the fastest climbers wanting to close the gap. Jimmy’s group of 4 had all been caught within a kilometre of climbing. Once the group had been absorbed nothing else happened.

On lap 3 we descended in to Bolton by Bowland village and saw Tom sat on the bend. Puncture. Race over. Just me and Jimmy left in now.

40589590253_bcbc2d6e90_kThe racing continued in this manner for 4 more of the 5 laps, with the pace increasing only to neutralise the attack and then bunch up and look around at each other. This type of racing was frustrating for the riders that didn’t want to get away. The bunch had been reduced but not by as much as we would’ve liked.

Towards the top of the course, 4 riders attacked including Will Lewis (High Peak Cycles RT). A  good place to make a move and they opened up a gap quickly. The advantage the break maintained was not huge and as we descended into the village one final time with 2km uphill to the finish, they were within touching distance. I started the climb near the front, with Jimmy somewhere behind. On the steepest part of the climb the sprinting started with a kilometre remaining.

Jimmy past me as we hit the flatter section and we rolled in somewhere in the middle of the bunch. Well done to Will Lewis who was the fastest of the break and took 1st place.

Thanks to Ellen for the great pics.

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Cull Cup E/1/2 Pimbo, by Jimmy Smith

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with pimbo, at 6’4 it is definitely a course that plays to my strengths, but its usually held in less than ideal conditions, hence the hate! After last weeks dnf due to nearly getting hypothermia, i emptied my winter kit drawer into my kit bag, and spent the drive over to the HQ second guessing what i would wear to avoid last weeks disappointing run out! I settled on a skinsuit with a waterproof underneath, aero is everything after all! Luckily the weather gods were smiling on us, and we only really got a tiny bit of hail during the race, nothing like the monsoon conditions of last week.

Over the past few weeks i have had some frustrating races, having good legs but lacking the race sharpness to make it count. 15th at Clayton and getting into a few breaks last week had given me some confidence, so i went into this race with high hopes of some good legs and hopefully a good result.

Arguably, this was the best field i had lined up in so far this season, with a big chunk of the ribble squad fresh back from a training camp, along with a scattering of hitters from madison genesis, saint piran etc. I enjoy races with decent riders, they race in a much more aggressive way, and, for the most part, aren’t afraid to give really turns if you can match them.

The race started with myself, Kris, Joe and Si all in attendance.

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Dillon Byrne launched from the gun and as I was feeling good I did think about going with him, but lap 1 was wayyyy too early with 73 miles more to go. Kris and matt holmes were pegged on the front, and as we hit the headwind section on lap 2, they had managed to peg Dillon back. The bunch seemed to stall for a second, with Kris on the front I decided to give it a nudge in the gutter and managed to peel free with Ed Hopper and another Ribble rider.

We worked pretty well together, and i could see it was splitting to bits behind, so i was happy to be in the front of the race, in case some of the stronger riders managed to bridge across. Sure enough, by the end of the next lap, myself, Matt Holmes, Dillon, Si Wilson, Matt Nowell, Ed Hopper and Gruff Lewis had chipped away, and we all set about rolling through and off. And that was it really for 90% of the race, the odd echelon in the wind, smoothly rolling through, we managed to lap the bunch with around 15 laps to go, along with some legend on road skis (god knows). Kris and Si had been doing a great job of disrupting any chases behind, and Joe had managed to chip off the front into a strong chase group too.

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Coming into 5 laps to go, the work rate had slowed a bit, but I kept rolling through, with one eye on the back of the group in case of attacks. To be fair, i think the wind played a big part in the lack of attacks, with only a few really happening on the last lap. I was caught in two minds wether to try surf the wheels in the sprint, or to go for it and try get away, but with the firepower in the group, i knew that would be a big ask.

Coming into the final straight, i was pushed to the front, so i sat to the right of the road (opposite from the wind direction). I looked across to see Ed Hopper with all of the others on his wheel in the opposite gutter, so i took my opportunity and opened up my sprint early, in the hope of catching them off guard. With about 20m to go i still had clear road ahead of me, but was starting to tire, when i saw Matt holmes and Si wilson just starting to pull past on my left. Unfortunately there was nothing i could do and they managed to pip me to the line by half a bike length, disappointing, but strong rides from them both meant their results were hard earned.

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I am over the moon with a podium place at this race, my previous best being 11th way back in 2015. Hopefully all of the training (and ‘death camp’ in Tenerife) are starting to cement in the legs, and this is a sign of things to come this year

Thanks as always to all our sponsors, we all massively appreciate their support!
Also huge thanks to Ellen Isherwood for the fantastic pictures and braving the weather on an awful day, as usual at Pimbo!

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Pimbo NWCR Road Race series #1 – 3/3/19

I’m of a certain age – old enough to remember the medicated toilet paper used in schools in the ‘70’s, which seemed to be made of antiseptic scented grease

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proof paper, that’s it IZAL…. only a Badgers nether region could put this stuff to good use, and I’m not

 talking about ‘the Badger’. Anyway such experiences as a child, plus the requirement to wear short pants up to the age of 16, sort of prepares you for future hardships.

Today’s Pimbo E/1/2 road race can only be considered a hardship. Racing around an industrial estate is down on the entertainment scale but when mixed with low temperatures and rain it gets quite grim (Grimbo). Unlike my schoolboy days, I decided to wear long pants (well bib longs), this might have saved me from the abandonment suffered by approximately half of the 70 odd field of Lycra clad masochists.

Coming back to that toilet roll, it’s no longer manufactured and changes hands for about £7 / roll on eBay, however, someone is making something of similar sturdy quality and a large roll of it must of fell off the back of a lorry onto the parcours. This created an item of interest during the 30 laps (x miles). Noting its gradual disintegration and movement across the road, trying to spot its new position and avoid it, was the main entertainment of the day. Unfortunately, towards the back end of the race I believe it claimed a few victims. I managed to avoid a rider sat in the road following the crash and used this as a mental ‘pick me up’ to continue the race. From lap 2 I couldn’t feel my fingers by lap 5 I started to look longingly at the side road where my (relatively warm and dry) car was parked. However I continued in the knowledge of collective suffering.

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Shaking my fingers to regain the feeling

The bell lap couldn’t come quick enough, by this time a solo leader Steven Parsonage (

Durham University Cycling Club) had made good his impressive escape and the diminished field eyed each other up for a sprint finish. I observed riders physically shaking from the hypothermic conditions, then I spotted Hamish Graham smoking a cigar, well not literally but looking calm and collected and more importantly warm in his full winter jacket. Knowing Hamish had done well on this course before I knew it was a good wheel to follow. Into the finishing straight the sprint opened up, I got out of the saddle turned my legs but experienced a distinct lack of forward propulsion, as if sat on a stationary train when the one beside you moves, I felt sick and nearly was by the time I crawled to the finishing line (in 29th place!).

Back to the ‘truck stop’ a shivering mess my wise and now warm teammate (due to his abandonment) presented me with a hot coffee, the best prize of the day.

Congratulations to the winner Steven Parsonage Durham University Cycling Club.

Many thanks to the organisers and Ellen Isherwood for standing in the rain taking photos.

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Racing abroad and the first ride on the S Works Tarmac.

It’s too early for proper racing but my season started today. I was lining up at the Josep Florencio Open in Montroig, a coastal village about 1.5 hours south of Barcelona. After receiving a whatsapp last Thursday that my former team mate and training partner, Boris, would also be racing, I was looking forward to racing with some mates and racing my new S Works Tarmac Disc for the first time. A much appreciated lift by my girlfriend, Gemma, meant I could get to the race in the middle of Catalonia and her choice of hits helped to gear me up for the race.

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The race is one that I had done once before, the 20 km circuit starts on a narrow street in the centre of town where it picks up the main road. This road is as flat as an iron and very fast and remains so until a sharp left turn inland through a town and the road starts winding up slowly at first, through another village, where the road kicks up towards the KOM point, that is followed a technical descent, then a left turn on to a dead straight plummet towards the start/finish.

After sign-on, I noticed a couple of jerseys that meant that today was going to be fast. Team Wiggins,  the pink of Lizarte (Movistar’s unofficial feeder team), as well as numerous Team Compak jerseys, who tend to dominate the podiums in the region.

We rolled out of the centre of town and hit the flat main road and I was already spinning in the 11 tooth. The Lizarte rider had started right out the back of the bunch, making the most of a patch of sunlight to keep warm and take a run-up at the roll out. However, by the first corner, he’d made up  40 places and was confidently moving through the bunch. I followed him and moved towards the front of the 186 man peloton.

The first real test came on the first climb, I was still quite well positioned as I came out the top of the town. It was here that I the lightness of the S works put me at an advantage, surging forward as I pushed on the pedals. Suddenly, my seat post slipped and went all the way down to the bottom, knowing that this had been my own fault was frustrating but I tried my best to deal with it, completing the rest of the climb out of the saddle.

We dropped down the twisty descent, here I could notice the extra grip in the corners, combined with the disc brakes allowed me to out brake riders around me. Then on the long descent, I started slipping back. I managed to hang on to the bunch as we crossed the start line, but on the flat road I found myself at the back of the bunch. I chanced putting my hand up for neutral service as I slipped back through the team cars, the last car that past me, the Lizarran team car,   they asked what I need and one of them stuck their head out and nipped up my seat post to where it should have been (approximately). I couldn’t quite believe my luck at managing to get this sorted. So after shouting “Muchas gracias” I made my way  back through the cars.

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Then came the next test. A 50 km/h head/cross wind had put everyone in the gutter. The strongest riders were using this to their advantage, putting everyone in the gutter. Three distinct groups formed. I managed to get across from the cars to back of the third group. I was desperate to get across to the next group, so I headed to the front and pulled with 4 or 5 riders as 50 sat on.

At the bottom of the climb, I managed to get on to the back of the next group. As we climbed, I was really paying for chasing so hard. There was still another group of 40 or so up the road that by this point, had opened up a gap of a minute. I rolled over the top of the climb hanging on to the back of this second group.

I managed a third lap before getting spat out of the group and absorbed and passed by the cars and rolling in for an early finish. The hard chase had been too much for me to maintain the pace later. Nevertheless, it had been great to really push the S works and see what it could do. It’s next outing won’t be until March and now I know how good this bike is, I can’t wait!

A couple of quick thanks to the Lizarran car for helping me out and Gemma for the support and photos. The winner was Stephen Bakker and Correntin Navarro of Wiggins Le Col was third.

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